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Gardening Question of the Day

Are cities generally warmer than the more rural areas near them?

Yes. In the biggest cities, the temperature can be 18 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it would be if that land were undeveloped. Industrial manufacturing and air-conditioning actually create heat, plus the big buildings and roads absorb a lot of sunlight and store it efficiently. This causes the air to rise more over cities, which increases cloud formation, which in turn produces more rain and heavier thunderstorms. So if you live in a big city, your chances of experiencing thunderstorms also are greater than in the surrounding countryside. Looking on the bright side, all that city heat can create microclimates for urban gardeners, who sometimes can produce more heat-sensitive crops than gardeners in surrounding rural areas.

Last 7 Days

    I trimmed our forsythia after it bloomed, and it has since grown approximately one and a half feet. Can I trim the new growth and still get blooms next spring?

    Prune back the stems of forsythias shortly after spring bloom. They begin to grow flower buds during the summer, so pruning them then will probably result in no blooms the following spring. You can prune broken branches anytime. To renovate a severely overgrown forsythia, prune it sharply in the spring. Cut back all the stems to within six inches of the ground to stimulate vigorous new growth from the base. The shrub will recover fully in two to three years.

    I have voles in my backyard. How can I get rid of them?

    You have to make your yard inhospitable to them. Voles like dense, heavy vegetative cover, mulch, and weeds because it provides them with food and protects them from predators. If you remove these things, you'll discourage voles. Next, locate the areas where they feed by setting out food. Once you've pinpointed these spots, decide whether you want to try to trap them or bait them with a registered rodenticide. Another great control method might be an outdoor cat.

    I planted a spruce tree three years ago. It is approximately three and a half feet tall. This year, the front part of the tree began losing its needles and is starting to turn brown. Is there anything I can do to bring the tree back to health?

    Winter drying, winter burn, salt damage, and extreme cold can cause loss of needles. Winter drying occurs when the needles lose moisture and cannot replace it because the soil around the roots is frozen. Warm winds also dry out the buds and needles that extend above the snow cover. Winter burn occurs when the temperature changes suddenly. This is common on the south sides of trees, where exposure to the sun is greatest. Winter drying and winter burn often occur together. Salt damage occurs when road salt splashes up on the foliage or when the roots absorb salt in the soil. The damage is usually greatest on the side facing a roadway. In any of these cases, don't be too quick to cut out the brown foliage. Wait several weeks to see which shoots green up and bud out, then prune the dead portions.

    I want to plant bulbs this fall, but rodents always manage to find them. How can I keep the critters away?

    You can try using soup-size cans with both ends removed. Punch several holes in the cans for drainage, then push each one down into the ground so that it forms a cylinder around a bulb.

    I just inherited a wisteria with my new house. How should I care for it?

    Wisterias need full sun, which we presume you have. They like to be in moist, well-drained soil that has been fortified with peat moss or leaf mold. If your plant is young, give it a general-purpose fertilizer in the spring. If it is mature, give it a complete fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in the spring. If you're in one of the northern zones, use pine boughs or leaves to mulch your wisteria in the fall for protection through the winter. Prune established plants to encourage flowering. Do this in late summer by removing new growth to above the sixth or seventh leaf from the base of each branch.

    I would like to know what annual flowers the Japanese beetle will not eat.

    Japanese beetles prefer perennials, and they do their dining on leaves, not flowers. Try planting marigolds, cosmos, bachelor's buttons, and morning glories. Stay away from yellow flowers (with the exception of marigolds) -- yellow is their favorite color. If you find them to be a problem in your garden, head out first thing in the morning with a bucket of soapy water. Getting rid of the beetles is as simple as shaking them into the bucket.

    I often lose my snow peas in mid-July. How can I prevent this?

    As you probably know, peas love cool weather. Plant them early in the spring--the sooner the better. Summer's highest temperatures will prevent the blossoms from setting and will leave the pods drying on the vine. That's most likely what has happened to your peas in the past.

    The leaves on my five-year-old peach tree turn bright yellow and then fall off. What causes this?

    The yellow leaves might mean that your tree has an iron deficiency called chlorosis, or it may be suffering from a fungus such as shot hole. Both indicate that your soil may have poor drainage, which could weaken the tree and make it susceptible to disease. Check the soil. If it's a heavy clay, that's probably your problem. If you think your soil is OK, make sure your tree is getting enough moisture. Water it deeply when the surface is dry but the soil three to four inches down is still moist. You also might want to contact your local county extension office to find out exactly what malady your tree has. It's hard to diagnose the problem without seeing it.

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